Britain’s Anthony Joshua says he is prepared to play the waiting game in his world heavyweight super-fight against veteran Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Joshua, 14 years Klitschko’s junior, is expected to attack the 41-year-old with the same explosiveness that has seen him win all 18 of his professional contests to date.
But while many observers believe the longer the fight goes on, the more it will play into Klitschko’s hands, Joshua says he is prepared to wait for his moment.
“He’ll probably start fast because he won’t be able to keep up the pace,” said Joshua, who hopes to add the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) title to his International Boxing Federation (IBF) crown.
“Father Time is a genetic thing. It’s something no-one can deny and it’s just part of life. I don’t think he’d be able to cope in my training camp.
“How I’ve been taught to win is to box off the line, set it up, and then come forward, defend, and try and come forward again.
“So it’s what opportunities are there, rather than being aggressive and missing shots because I’m just hungry for a knockout.
“I just have to create opportunities and when they come, I’ll explode then and take him on.”
Joshua, 27, will confront Klitschko, the former world heavyweight number one, in front of 90,000 fans in the biggest fight the division has seen in years.
It is the most significant heavyweight fight ever to be held in Britain and will reportedly earn the pair upwards of £10 million ($13 million, 12 million euros) each.
Britain’s largest attendance for a boxing event since 1939 is expected beneath the Wembley arch, with millions more watching on television in over 140 countries.
Yet Joshua, the London 2012 Olympic gold medallist, does not even see this as being the most important fight he will ever have.
“I don’t think so, because it won’t be the end of my career,” said Joshua, who was born in England to Nigeria-born parents.
“When he gets beat, that could be the end of him. That’s why it could be defining for him.”
– ‘Crumble like a cookie’ –
Joshua was seven years old when Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) turned professional in 1996 following his Olympic gold medal success in Atlanta earlier that year.
The Ukrainian was last seen in a ring in November 2015 when he was outboxed in a defeat by Joshua’s burly compatriot Tyson Fury, ending his nine-and-a-half-year reign as champion.
Klitschko, who saw Fury twice pull out of a re-match, is banking on his greater experience being a decisive factor.
While Joshua has never been beyond seven rounds, Klitschko has fought 12 rounds nine times.
“Experience is something that you cannot buy in a shop. You gain it over the years,” Klitschko said.
“People could be in great preparation and great spirit and I’ve seen that they crumble like a cookie right before the first bell.”
Klitschko is bidding to become a three-time world heavyweight champion like his older brother, Vitali, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Muhammad Ali.
Joshua tipped the scales at 17 stones 12lbs 2oz (113.4 kg) — 10 pounds more than Klitschko and his heaviest ever pre-fight weight — at Friday’s weigh-in.
It prompted Klitschko to compare him to an over-muscled body-builder.
“I’ve never seen AJ as big as he is right now,” he said. “He is as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger at his best.”
Klitschko even went as far as predicting the partisan British crowd will be cheering for him by the end of the bout.
“I was booed at the beginning (of his open workout), but cheered at the end, when I finished,” said the Ukrainian.
“I’ve seen it with my brother (Vitali) and Herbie Hide here years ago. If you perform well, people will accept you with cheering.”